Every week so many new restaurants open up in the Bay Area that it’s hard to keep up with them all. The most hyped about places you’ll hear about over and over again, but other equally wonderful spots that aren’t media darlings often get overlooked. One such restaurant is Maybeck’s, which the San Francisco Chronicle didn’t even bother to review. It opened, like most places do, with a couple of write-ups on the restaurant industry beat, but quietly without much fan fare last November. However, with its six-month anniversary under its belt, Maybeck’s, is definitely worth a visit and should be on your radar.
Located in the Marina District, on the corner of Scott and Lombard Streets, Maybeck’s is a lively restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously and pays homage to the red-sauce Italian eateries of the past. When you walk into the restaurant, it’s hard to believe that the space was formerly a bro-tastic Marina sports bar where pitchers of cheap beer were guzzled by the gallon and the menu consisted of an assortment of saucy wings. The masculine, yet inviting interior was gutted and remodeled by Michael Guthrie. The ceiling is covered in silver metal tiles and the floors are wooden. A large U-shaped bar, with a spirits-filled metal cage hanging from the ceiling above it, dominates the front half of the dining room. When closed, shiny merlot-colored curtains transform the other half of the space into a private dining room. Red tartan banquets, wooden chairs and bar stools, and white tablecloths with nostalgic red candle holders give the restaurant an old-school men’s club vibe—it feels like the sort of place where Frank Sinatra would sip Manhattans while eating veal Milanese.
However, there is no Milanese on the menu; instead, there is a sensational pork chop. It’s a salty, succulent scrumptious piece of pork with a perfectly pink center, char-grilled exterior, and sweet cherry sauce. Other noteworthy dishes include crisp-tender asparagus coated in olive oil and lemon with a generous dollop of creamy burrata and liberal shower of toasted breadcrumbs. There are only four pasta dishes: deliciously traditional cacio e pepe, strozzapreti with flaky and sweet Dungeness crab, rigatoni with smoky oxtail ragu, and my personal favorite, a decadent spaghetti with local uni butter and chives.
All of the pasta is made in house by the chefs, Erik Lowe and Aaron Toensing. With ashy blond hair and ruddy fair skin, the chefs are often mistaken for being brother. Yet, the duo, who worked at Bix and Fog City (as chef de cuisine and pastry chef) before branching out to open Maybeck’s, are definitely bro-mantic buddies. The chefs have succeeded at creating a restaurant that is tongue-in-cheek and a little mischievous. Classical opera plays loudly in the bathroom, but Bob Dylan serenades guests in the dining room. Quintessential cocktails like the paper plane and Negroni are on the drink list, but daredevils can also roll three dice to select the ingredients to a creative and potent beverage.
Perhaps it is Toensing’s signature dessert that sums up the entire Maybeck’s experience. A potted confection that combines cheesecake ganache with vanilla gelato, shortcake crumble, and fresh strawberries, it’s a twist on the childhood ice cream truck treat, the Good Humor Bar. The flavor is distinctly reminiscent of the sentimental sweet, the presentation is comforting—it feels like something mom would make—yet the execution is contemporary and complex. Sure, the spaghetti bros are playful and not without their inside jokes, but underneath it all, Lowe and Toensing just want to make wildly tasty food that people take pleasure in eating.
Photos courtesy of Sloane Morrison.